Yasmeen Khan is a reporter covering education. You can find her stories on the air and on SchoolBook.org, WNYC’s education website.
For many high school seniors, this vacation week may be spent working on — or perhaps agonizing over — college applications. Deadlines for many universities are in January, while others, such as CUNY, follow a February 1 cutoff.
Jane S. Gabin, an independent college counselor in New York City and a columnist for InsideSchools.org, has heartening words for those toiling over the centerpiece of the college application: the essay.
"It's actually less complicated than a lot of students think," said Gabin, who also worked as an admissions officer at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "They think that they have to have some kind of headline topic or some earth shattering revelation, and actually, the essay could just be a very simple story about the student."
The point of the personal statement, Gabin said, is to give an admissions committee a glimpse of the applicant as an individual human being.
"What I say to the student is, 'If you imagine your whole application as a musical or as an opera, the essay is the only place where you get to sing a solo.'"
Gabin also gives these hints, whether you are putting the finishing touches on an application or just getting started:
There are also some topics students might want to avoid, such as writing about how hard it is to write an essay. Angry essays are also not a good idea, Gabin said.
In the end, she said that students should remember that admissions officers are people too. "Basically what they want to see in the application, especially if they read the application holistically, is a total human being."